5 Thoughts about Christians and Evangelism

Only 3 in 10 unchurched Americans (29%) say a Christian has ever shared with them one-on-one how a person becomes a Christian. Only slightly more say a Christian has told them about the benefits of participating in a local church (33%) or the benefits of becoming a Christian (35%). For 4 in 10 unchurched Americans (40%), they’ve never had a Christian explain any of those things to them.[1]

These are the findings of a recent Lifeway Research study worth our attention. Here are some of my responses to this study and others:

  1. I’m not surprised 4/10 unchurched Americans have never had anyone tell them how to become a Christian—or the benefits of church participation or becoming a Christian. I grant that I generally live in a Christian world, but I’ve had only two people in my life engage me in a conversation about following Christ. The first was my friend who led me to the Lord. The second was a seatmate on an airplane, and he was seemingly more concerned that I join his denomination than he was about my spiritual condition. 
  2. Nor am I surprised that more unchurched folks have heard about church participation than about Christian conversion. I suspect that’s because it’s much easier for believers to invite others to church than it is to tell them how to get saved. Especially when churches focus on attractional evangelism (which I don’t condemn—see here and here), more folks will invite than evangelize.  
  3. On the other hand, research shows that “82% of the unchurched are open to attending church with a friend or acquaintance”[2]—so, we’re clearly missing some opportunities. Even an invitation to church—which is still not evangelism—could make a difference if more believers would do the inviting. Maybe we should at least start there as we try to move congregations to an outward focus. 
  4. In my anecdotal experience, most churches don’t offer evangelism training—so I’m not convinced believers even know how to share their faith. I would hope that believers would naturally tell their story, but that’s not often the case. We church leaders too often tell them they must evangelize but offer them no training to get there. 
  5. Sam Rainer’s research shows most unchurched would rather hear from a layperson than a minister[3]—but I still argue the pastor must lead the way. No church I’ve known has been more evangelistic than their senior leader has been. His shadow falls long on his congregation, so his shadow needs to be decidedly focused toward doing personal evangelism himself. I suspect Sam and I would not differ on this perspective. 

What are your thoughts? 

[1] https://lifewayresearch.com/2021/09/09/christians-dont-share-faith-with-unchurched-friends/?ecid=PDM244342&bid=1732135986

[2] https://churchanswers.com/blog/a-few-surprising-perspectives-about-your-unchurched-neighbors/

[3] Ibid. 


  • Randall Wood says:

    Completely agree. We at EE are here to assist churches in the equipping of the saints to have gospel conversations. We work with over 1,100 churches in America and 37,000 worldwide. We are seeing more than 5 out of every 10 we connect with are listening to the gospel these days and more than 5 of every 10 that hear the gospel are making decisions for Christ. The fields are truly white for harvest. Not sure they have ever been whiter!

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    I had a pastor who told his congregatio, “You invite them to church. I’ll evangelized them” His idea was preach a a series of sermons and make an invition after each sermon. We may be able to reach some of the unchurched that way but we are not going to reach most unchurched people.Nowadays people are more likely to become Christians if members of the congregation make friends with them and are genuine friends to them. What do, what we say, and how we treat them is going to go much further in convincing them to believe in Jesus and embrace the life of a disciple of Jesus than a sermon. Instead of a sermon preached from a pulpit, our lives as disciples of Jesus must be sermons both in words and actions. The unchurched are more likely to listen to us when we are living the life of a disciple of Jesus right in front of their eyes and actively listen to them if and when a conversation turns to spiritual matters. They want to hear how we became a disciple of Jesus and why Jesus and his teaching and example matter to us. If they show an interest in becoming a disciple, we need to be able to teach and show them how to follow Jesus. I am not knocking sermons. They have a place in instructing members, attendees, and guests about Jesus–his person, his character, his work, his teaching, and his life, and keeping fresh in our mind what it means to follow Jesus. If the members and attendees are not living the life of a genuine disciple of Jesus, something is very wrong in their church. A genuine disciple replicates himself. He makes new disciples who replicate themselves. Until we start taking making disciples seriously, the Barna’s research will keep reporting few and few genuine disciples of Jesus.

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